I’m not one who shops based on book covers (it’s usually never paid off in the past) but I will admit that this particular photo did catch my eye and pulled me in enough to read the synopsis. Now, there is where I found my true tether…even in the short blurb that accompanied it, a nerve of mine was struck and I felt compelled to read it. And my ever-true “gut” told me I’d like it…
In this story we meet Katie. A bright woman living a good life with the love of a devoted, supportive husband and a promising career where she finds pure joy on a daily basis as a successful midwife. Part of Katie’s character is that she is adopted and was blessed with a loving adoptive family, which she has never questioned. Until now. Although she has never openly sought the answers to her biological identity, she has always wondered about it and through this story those pesky little questions churn quietly in the background as she grows further into her adult life. It’s that urge for a biological connection that fuels Katie’s desires to have a family of her own. However, the path she must take is not easy and it tests hers and her marriage’s limits. As a midwife Katie finds that experiencing countless births is bittersweet as she struggles quietly with her own fertility speed bumps and she finds herself even facing pregnancies that are unwanted or disappointingly unplanned. What started as a career full of joy and wonder begins to turn into a daily reminder of how “unfair” she feels her life has been. As a reader and mother I felt sorry for her but knew that her vision of her life may not be what her life was meant to be. My heart ached for her from time to time and I wanted to rush to the end to see if she was ever blessed with the joys of motherhood.
Title: Margaret from Maine
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
Release date: December 24, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
The end of Maine Guardsman Sgt. Thomas Kennedy’s conscious life is ushered in by a flash of light on a plain in Afghanistan. While he languishes in a veterans’ hospital, Thomas’s devoted wife, Margaret, is raising their son on a dairy farm in rural Maine. She receives an invitation to Washington, DC, to meet the President of the United States as he signs a bill in support of wounded veterans with war veteran and West Point graduate Charlie King as her appointed escort. Charlie and Margaret’s shared circumstances inspire them to confide in one another. Suddenly, the pair creates a private world all their own, leaving the effects of war behind them. Margaret’s vows to her husband linger, raising a series of harrowing choices.
In this story we are given a woman living her day to day life on a dairy farm in Maine with her son Gordon and father-in-law Ben, keeping herself together and poised as ever. She’s a simple woman, not wanting for much, and considering which direction her life has taken, that says a lot about her character and strength. Unfortunately we never really get to “meet” her husband, Thomas, because he’s now just a shadow of the man he once was. He joined the Reserves, just like countless others do, to help support their life and possibly do something bigger. But, life had a different plan for him. He is now considered an injured veteran and with that label comes a very tricky and sometimes treacherous path to be on. Being married to an injured veteran with Tom’s specific condition, Margaret is invited to attend a bill signing in Washington D.C. that is meant to improve the lives and care options for these tattered soldiers. With that invitation came Charlie King, her assigned escort. It’s when Charlie and Margaret are together that we see just what she is missing in her life and I felt empathy for her. Yes she is a married woman, and those vows I do not take lightly, but I could also see her daily sacrifices slowly destroying her and I knew deep down that embracing her feelings and thoughts towards Charlie was the right choice for her. Charlie opens a door to a world Margaret knew little of and with that he also awakened something inside her she did not realize had been dormant. She is not just Margaret the dairy farmer/mother/caretaker…she is a woman with needs and yearns for the things taken from her before she had time to really enjoy them. There were times I found myself wishing there was a bit more internal conflict from each character considering certain situations that they were presented with but I was satisfied it wasn’t all sweetness and roses. The subjects dealt with between them deserve an honest light and in order to feel connected with the characters, I need to be able to feel their feelings but also place myself in their shoes. I struggled at times to do that but I never found myself bothered or annoyed with the situations completely.
Charlie is a very honorable and giving man to me and I never once considered him aggressive or opportunistic, which could have been easily done given his particular role in Margaret’s life. He showed true compassion and never failed to put everyone before himself which is a must in my yes column. He has ties to the Army as well as a unique connection to the situation Margaret finds herself in. I won’t spoil the story here, but I will say that the way Mr. Monninger connected Margaret and Charlie was thoughtful, respectful, and never once did I find myself questioning the purpose.
Margaret and Charlie embark on a journey together and the style of descriptive writing used here both enhanced it and overshadowed it at times. It took me a moment or two to really get into the story at the beginning and I did find myself wondering why certain elements of the background were included the way they were. By the time I reached the end of the book I realized that although they weren’t necessary to push the story forward, they were elements that added to my overall experience within the story.
“For the last three sunsets the prism had caught fire and it did not disappoint her this night. It sparkled bright white for just an instant, and she thought of Thomas, and she thought of good grace falling over the farm, and she hugged Gordon as the prism accepted light, bent it, and sent it on its way. She felt a lesson rested in its performance, that she, too, must accept what came toward her and pass it on its journey, but that seemed too grand an idea for the moment.”
Although Margaret and Charlie are mean to be modern day people they did speak and have thoughts that seemed slightly outdated but it did not detract too much from the story for me. If anything I considered them polite and proper, with maybe even a touch of southern style.
I was drawn to this book for one reason…Margaret is a military spouse. As one myself, I am always interested to see how authors handle this very different life we live. Which aspects are covered and which are barely touched out of fear of the unknown are typically the first thoughts I have when I read a synopsis that includes any mention of military married life. Most people have ideas of what military spouses face but I can say, without a doubt, their ideas don’t even scratch the surface. Regardless of the branch of service their spouses serve, they all have had to face the same trials and tribulations in some form or another. Long separations, the worry of unknown dangers, and carrying the responsibilities alone that most share with others are a constant presence in a military spouse’s daily life. There are sacrifices made by both the active duty member as well as his/her spouse but the focus and point of discussion is typically only on the soldier’s side of the spectrum. I’m not implying that a soldier’s sacrifice is in any way lessened because it’s their sacrifices that keep our country safe from harm, and that in itself is the biggest one a person can make. Even after these troops return safely to their families, there are even more obstacles and worries that must be overcome in order to find peace with what each has experienced during a deployment. It’s a very tricky situation to be in and their inner strengths are tested again and again long after the battle has been fought. War changes people regardless of the uniform or responsibilities held during it. It forces us to accept a reality that most would like to ignore and pushes our strength and resolve beyond every limit we felt existed.
This story highlights just a fraction of what our troops and their families face upon their return but it was done with tastefulness that I respect. I will say that Mr. Monninger handled the role of a military spouse with class and dignity, never once casting Margaret, or other military spouses, in a poor or weak manner and I certainly appreciated it. I enjoyed this book and felt that it ended appropriately leaving the imagination to do what it was designed to do. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to step into the delicate but muck covered shoes of a military spouse.
“She did, in fact, believe her husband Tom had acted bravely, but she did not see it in quite the same light as others wanted to see it…..She knew her husband—saw him bracketed by his son on one side, his father on the other—and she did not believe he would have acted courageously for a concept as vague as patriotism. No, it made perfect sense that he would raise his arms and try to protect a fellow soldier, but that had nothing to do with God and Country and flag waving.”
“Did you believe in the war, Charlie?” Margaret asked softly, her eyes studying the statue.
“Is there a difference really? I suppose there is. I’m cynical. After Thomas, I don’t have much faith in any of it. I imagine I did at one point. We were told so many lies and I believed them.”
“I think a lot of my friends still believe in the cause,” Charlie said, not sure of himself where he was heading with it, “because to go back on it now makes us…what? Murderers? Professional assassins? I’ve had trouble with it.”
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About the Author
Joseph Monninger is the author of Eternal on the Water and The World as We Know It, as well as several award-winning young-adult novels. A professor of English literature, he lives in New Hampshire. Visit him online at http://joemonninger.com
You can find Joseph Monninger on these social media sites:
To begin my review of The Prince I have to admit that this series has rocked me beyond anything I ever thought possible and I am still begging for more. Literally. I’m online searching for whatever morsels I can get my greedy little eyes on and it’s still not enough to satisfy this insane craving. Ms. Reisz has become my drug of choice and according to her… she’s just warming up.
The format and style of this book is unlike any I’ve ever seen. We aren’t given chapters; we’re given glimpses of time. These glimpses are so perfectly timed and notated with headers such as North (past or present) and South; I never once lost my train of thought or where I was last left off. The moments flowed so freely through time that I felt there, in every moment, feeling and seeing them as they happened in real time and not some cheesy flashback moment that is lost in the shuffle of life. The North represents our dear Søren and Kingsley and their journey to where it all began while the South gives us back our much craved Nora and Wesley reunion and her trip into a world she never knew existed.
The Prince picks up right where The Angel left us but this time there’s a dark shadow that blankets everything. We begin with an eerie Prologue that reminds us that not all is well in the world of the Sinners and someone is waiting for an opportunity to prove it. We know that Nora’s file was stolen from Kingsley’s office, but who dared to cross that man? Better yet, who could gain from the secrets kept in that simple file? This mysterious shadow finds its way into the weak crevices of our strong and formidable Søren and begins to taunt him with the still unknown secrets of his past. Someone has their target but whom or what the target is, only the shadow knows and will reveal when it’s time.
I was prepared to see Søren and Kingsley, both past and present, and the dynamic and texture of their relationship but was not strong enough to handle those sweet stolen moments and conversations. They nearly broke me and I found myself not only seeing the young beautiful men they once were but falling hard for Kingsley when he bared his heart out of pure love and weakness for Søren. These two men found each other when they least expected it and need it (whether they want to admit it or not), and now are forced to face the past together. This leads me to constantly wonder…where will their relationship be when it’s over? Søren has always been the strong and solid one but it’s here that I see Kingsley take on the role of protector in the hopes of returning to the one place he’s missed the most…kneeling beside Søren.
Søren also took me by a bit of a surprise again (I swear the man just loves to mess with me) and it was in The Prince that I was introduced to yet another side of this puzzling man. I have always seen him as intimidating, intelligent, and enigmatic but it’s here that I see shocking vulnerability, tenderness, and even raw love. I guess to be a polarizing character you have to keep people on their toes …so now tell me what does it mean when he has me on my knees?
Title: Nopeming Shores
Author: Margie Church and J. Andrew Lockhart
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Grade/Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis: An IED snuffed out Gabe Holliway’s life, but couldn’t destroy his love. Using his unique gift, Gabe struggles to help his young wife, Lily, rebuild her shattered future. But when Gabe’s ghost reaches out to her, Lily fears she’s lost her last hold on sanity. Can she trust what she discovers and what her heart says? When she sees Gabe face-to-face, can she believe her eyes? When love transcends death, the answers are found in Nopeming Shores.
In this story we are given Lily, a broken woman who struggles daily with the devastating loss of her husband and soul mate, Gabe, during the war in Afghanistan. These two characters represent thousands of military families who make the sacrifices which most are unaware of. These spouses place themselves in danger to protect and fight for freedom, while their families are at home watching the news and feeling their resolve break when their world crumbles. War is an ugly thing no matter which way you look at it; and unfortunately, Lily’s story is like the thousands of spouses who face each day with unimaginable strength only to be taken down by those unexpected memories.
Lily has a life saturated by the Army but now faces this world without the one person she was destined to spend it with. Every song on the radio, every place she goes, even those she speaks to somehow test her fragile heart and nearly break her each time. Every day feels like a battle to conquer; and most days, she barely makes it through. During this time Gabe, whose spirit has not moved on, watches helplessly as his love becomes a shadow of what she once was, and he struggles within himself on how to help her move on. He is given an opportunity; but if it’s not handled correctly, neither of them will survive this new reality they face.
“All the old habits and routines had kinks in them now, too. Nothing came easy. People acted awkwardly around her and sometimes seemed to avoid her on purpose. At times, old friends spoke to her like she was as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. Some days she was.”
This story is written with great detail; and although it is not my favorite style of writing, readers can still gain the emotion and message the author is trying to convey. I had moments of understanding and felt a common bond with them that all military families share but is rarely ever written about. I wish this story had more of Lily and Gabe’s inner struggles to showcase the hardships these couples face, but there is enough to show readers just how these spouses live their lives. There is also an element of poetry that is not often found in novels, and it brought a different feel and flow to the story and gave it a more personal touch. It is a story with strengths and weaknesses, unbreakable love, and survival at its best and its ugliest. It shows the power that memories can have and the perseverance to get through life and potentially find peace.
“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that tomorrow is a gift. And so is love.”
Title: Paradise Hops
Author: Liz Crowe
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Grade/Rating: 4 out of 5
To begin, I will admit that although I had heard good things about Ms. Crowe’s books and even had a couple on my list to read, I had not read a single one until now. Sometimes a book just comes along in unexpected ways and you go into it thinking “Why not? I’m up for something new and fresh.” I had skimmed the synopsis, and it appeared to be a typical angst-like romance with the potential to stimulate more than my ability to have hot flashes on command so I dove right in. As of now, I have read it twice in less than two weeks…
Ms. Crowe has developed a cast of characters that come alive on the pages flaunting their flaws and all. To start we are given a shattered woman who’s lost in a fog that is slowly suffocating her ability to return to the lively and spunky woman she once was. Lori Brockton is a frustrating character that you want to shake to death one minute and then smother her in a hug the next. To see someone compartmentalize her feelings and push away any real social contact was hard; but in the same sense, I’m not sure if I personally would not do the same having gone through what she has. Everyone deals with things differently, and it was refreshing to see real trauma and emotions dealt with in an unfavorable manner and being forced to accept it.
Of course, you can’t have a romance novel without a handsome man or two, and Ms. Crowe did not skimp in this department either. First, there is Garrett Hunter, the man we all want to see opening doors for us and treating us like the princess we all believe we are. He is undeniably handsome with a crisp and clean feeling that hangs a suit like few others but also has the education, drive and dependable qualities we all crave beyond the eye candy. His first interaction with Lori alone made my heart go pity-pat, and I was immediately cheering for him to be that changing force I knew Lori needed from page one. Even from the very first few pages, he made me feel safe; and his compassion and need to care for Lori was evident from the get go, which was exactly what she needed. Now that we have established which team I started on, I will admit that when Eli Buchanan was introduced you could almost hear the “Boos” coming from my own inner monologue. Of course, you can’t have a good romance plot without some angst driven-lust and Eli provided more than enough lust and anger for me and Lori and probably a whole slew of others as well. He’s the bad boy with a temper that has a flash point of zero. But what makes him appealing is his passion for brewing that makes even me want to be on his payroll and even in his warpath just to watch the creativity take over. To say he demanded attention is an understatement…he commanded it and got it. When Eli was in the room, everyone knew it and felt it long before he opened his mouth. And who doesn’t find that kind of man addictive or attractive?
Remember that delicious Calamari Salad from the Italian restaurant, Bravo, featured in Trust in Advertising? Well, I’ve adapted a NON-SPICY version that even Vincent might enjoy!
• 1 lb cleaned squid
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large garlic clove, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 small red onion
• 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
• 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (3/4 lb), halved or quartered if large
• 1 bag of Mixed Greens or Spring Mix lettuce
1. Rinse squid under cold running water, then lightly pat dry between paper towels. Halve tentacles lengthwise and cut bodies (including flaps, if attached) crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide rings.
2. Cook squid in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until just opaque, 40 to 60 seconds. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. When squid is cool, drain and pat dry.
3. Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then stir in half of red onion, minced and let stand 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine squid, olives, tomatoes, and thinly sliced onions to bowl. Toss with dressing and season with salt and pepper again if needed.
5. Let stand at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
6. Just before serving, place lettuce in serving dish or bowls and place portion of calamari mixture on top.
7. Drizzle with additional dressing if needed.
*Recipe adapted from epicurious.com